Trust No One (On the Internet): The CIA-Crack-Contra Conspiracy Theory and Professional Journalism

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14 Scopus citations


This article examines the “metastory” surrounding Gary Webb's 1996 “Dark Alliance” series as a moment of crisis in mainstream journalism. Two forces converge in Webb's series and its aftermath: (1) establishment journalism confronts and manages the reemergent phenomenon of conspiracy theory, and (2) establishment print-based journalism attempts to organize a relationship with the emergent medium of the internet. When these two forces collide in the profession, conspiracy theories and the web end up mutually defining each other. This problematization of a conspiracy theory has multiple effects—not only in disqualifying the story itself but in reshaping the profession of journalism in its relation to new technology. Eschewing technological determinism, this article demonstrates how a new technology is made sensible through a professional discourse as a way of making it manageable. In turn, professional journalism operates as technical expertise in a liberal political rationality of “governing at a distance.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-139
Number of pages31
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


  • conspiracy
  • governmentality
  • internet
  • journalism
  • new media


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